The View restaurant, atop the Key Bridge Mariott Hotel (1401 Lee Highway), is meant to give you the feeling you're dining in an 18th-century French garden, which has unaccountably landed on a rooftop overlooking if not the world, at least Washington.

The View is magnificent, even more so since Washington has so few tall buildings with a view of the city and the river. The price of the meal is worth it if only to watch the boats move up and down the river.

The garden is obviously not real, any more than the diaries of Marie Antoinette's fantasies were real. The Louis XVI-shaped chairs are carved to look like tree branches. The colors are grape, smoke, mauve, rose, gray. "I'm an Aries," said Barbara Lockhart, the Los Angeles interior designer (and friend of the Ronald Reagans) who planned the room, "so red is my favorite color. But a bright red room is too difficult to live with. Nurseries are often painted primary colors, but it makes people too hyper to be in all the time."

"You lead such intense lives in Washington. I tried to make the room easy to live with, restful," she said.

"You lead such intense lives in Washington. I tried to make the room easy to live with, restful," she said.

All along the way, Lockhart has tried to calm the diners down before the food comes. A large aquarium stands in the hallway, where people might wait to be seated. You come into the room past the bar, with the bottle protected by latticework. A deep velour roundabout sofa and marble tables offer space for those who are drinking while waiting for a table.

On panels set into the wall are sketches of plants taken from 17th-and 18th-century botanical books. Flowers are also etched on glass panels. And the backs of the 190 chairs have the same botanical designs, worked out by Keith Harmon, a Los Angeles artist who hired some local student artists to paint them.

Carrying out the flowers and fruit theme are oversized arrangements on the buffet table and around the room, made by William Dove.Some large trees are potted in wicker baskets painted sang de bouef. The china with a dogwood pattern designed by Lockhart was made by Jackson.

The room is quiet, in good part because Lockhart unpholstered the walls with cotton batting covered with fabric, and edged with gimp dyed to match.

The room reminds Herbert Schonherr, the manager of the restaurant whose standards were set in his native Vienna, of what the Viennese call "the winter garden," the sun room where the plants live during cold weather. Another Viennese touch are the condiments served with coffee: brown sugar, shaved chocolate, lemon peel. Deitmar Salat, the chef, and Franz Kochiling, the pastry chef, decorate the food in the Viennese manner.

The View is a Marriott Corp. project -- which probably explains the buffet choice (you can, if you're not so greedy, order from the menu). Hockhart is a California move stars' decorator. She's worked for Carol Burnett, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, as well as designed Le Dome Restaurant in Los Angeles and the Aspen Club in Colorado -- which helps explain the traditional tilt.

Even so, perhaps because of Schonherr and his chief's influence, the restaurant decidedly has enough of the though you are a Herr Dokter Dokter and have dined mit schlagobers (with whipped cream).